TV tech pioneers secure £150k for broadband roll-out

A Sheffield company which is rolling out high-speed broadband to rural areas by using spare capacity on the TV network has secured a £150,000 loan from NPIF-Mercia Debt Finance, which is managed by Mercia Fund Managers and is part of the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund.

Whitespace Technology uses TV frequencies freed up by the switch from analogue to digital television, known as TV whitespace. As the signal can travel long distances over hills, through buildings and trees, it is ideal for providing connectivity in rural locations and areas such as campuses, or to connect IoT devices in urban areas.

The company has already set up successful pilot schemes in Scotland, Norfolk and Yorkshire. It is planning to connect over 20,000 properties itself to the internet over the next two years, and bring broadband to other customers through its partnerships with internet service providers.

Behind Whitespace are founder and Chief Executive Mark Wheeler and Chief Operating Officer Mark Kelly, both former senior team members with Sheffield telecoms company Plusnet. The Chairman is well-known Sheffield businessman Steve Thomas.

Mark Wheeler, the CEO, said: “As a team, we have always tried to innovate and push the internet into environments that are difficult to connect. By leveraging this new technology and applying our industry knowledge, we plan to scale quickly and provide communities the connectivity they deserve.”

Pete Sorsby, Investment Manager with Mercia Fund Managers, said: “The Whitespace team have a strong track record in the industry. In their new enterprise, they have a mission to bring fast and affordable ‘broadband for all’, even in the most challenging locations. The funding will allow them to buy the equipment they need to start rolling out the service.”

David Tindall of British Business Bank, said: “Whitespace Technology is an exciting business with an innovative offering. As the Internet of Things becomes more commonplace in households across the UK, Whitespace can support people in the regions with poor connectivity and provide high-speed broadband. We’re proud to back this fantastic northern business and we look forward to seeing its progression.”

Peter Crawford and Caroline Thomas of Freeths provided legal advice to Whitespace, while Robert Hanney of accountants Knowles Warwick provided fundraising advice to the company. Chris Perkins, Relationship Director of Lloyds Bank, provided general banking and working capital support.

The Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund project is supported financially by the European Union using funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020 and the European Investment Bank.